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Regular child abuse in ADF Cadets: inquiry

AAP logoAAP 9/12/2016 Megan Neil

Children have been regularly sexually abused within the Australian Defence Force Cadets over the last 15 years, a royal commission has heard.

The Department of Defence has been aware that incidents of child sexual abuse have occurred regularly within the ADF Cadets since at least 2001, counsel assisting the commission Angus Stewart SC says.

ADF Cadets conducts military-style activities for children and currently has 25,886 active members in 544 units around Australia.

Defence said the royal commission should note that ADF Cadets has taken action to respond to child abuse allegations.

Mr Stewart said the inquiry heard Defence has conducted a number of reviews into the administration and operation of ADF Cadets since at least 2000 in an attempt to find the appropriate structure for the management of children.

But he said based on an analysis of Defence documents, these reviews do not appear to have been successful in preventing incidents of child sexual abuse within the ADF Cadets.

Defence maintains its reforms have meant ADF Cadets now has an appropriate organisational structure that provides the foundations for a safe environment for children participating in the program.

Defence recorded 154 incidents or allegations of child sexual abuse for the period January 2001 to April 2016, the commission's analysis of Defence documents shows.

Fifty-one cases were allegedly committed by ADF Cadets instructors, 10 by ADF members and the remainder by cadets.

However, Defence said the figure has been amended to 150 and includes incidents or allegations other than child sexual abuse, that were in breach of the cadets code of conduct, of which:

* 78 cases (60 allegations of cadet abuse against other cadets and 18 involving an adult and minor) were referred to civil authorities; and,

* 37 cases involving incidents between a cadet and another cadet were investigated by ADF Cadets, with 15 cadets discharged.

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